… salut d'amour xoxo
See Naples and die? I always wondered 'Why', (I’m too polite to ask of 'What'). Doctor Johnsons’s declaration that “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life” has left me equally bewildered. I can see being tired of Los Angeles, not tired of life.
And, like a sensible heroine, I will pick myself up and go to Venice.
Such is the eternal lure of that miracle-from-the-swamp, Venice. Refugees from the mainland conjured it up from mud and reeds as they tried to outrun death in the form of Attila the Hun. And, as if the city’s mere existence is not preposterous enough, their prosperous descendents had it gilded.
Since the Middle Ages, Venice has been attracting dazed foreigners; pilgrims venerating holy relics, crusaders commisioning ships, Jews escaping persecution, artists looking for civic commisions, writers looking for dramatic settings, filmakers looking for eery urban scenery, royalty experiencing unpopularity at home, millionaires pursuing experiences that would have made them unpopular at home, and a millenium’s worth of traveling tradesmen and toutists from whatever has constituted the known world at any given time. Together, we form an endless caravan of Marco Polos in reverse.
The tendency to blather about Venice’s beauty, using any excuse to pronounce the beloved name, is a hazard of being a Venetophile. A greater hazard is holding conversation with a Ventophile. But, what lover ever failed to argue that beauty alone would not have been sufficient to ignite the fever?
Although, Venice has its domestic virtues. It is quiet, no cars.
Venice is a healthy place to live. We have heard this claim before, memorably in Death in Venice, where the tourists are told that everything is fine and not to worry about the sudden disappearances of people who were looking peaked. Earlier, there was that matter of ships carelessly bringing the plagues home, and to all of Europe. A city where one of the churches is commonly known by the word “health”(the Salute) can be said to have known medical problems.
What is meant, I suspect, is that it is healthy in the life-style sense. I can see why. Treadmills and stair machines are provided by the municipality. With the necessity of walking everywhere, every few yards being up and down the steps of bridges, Venice’s old people are remarkably free of strokes and varicose veins.
Venice is startlingly crime-free. Real life elsewhere has accustomed Americans to thinking of ourselves as constant targets at home, and even more vulnerable when we travel. Art heists have been known to happen. My charming hostess told me an elaborate tale of how she had heroically held a burglar in check until the police arrived. “Venetians?” I ask incredulously. “Oh, no,” she reassured me. “Certainly not! No, no, no! Italians!”
This is not to claim that Venice eschews the machinations of global corruption. On the contrary, historic Venetian mercenary cunning still contributes a special twist to the perils of encountering its legal system.
If Venetophilia cannot be explained by aesthetics alone, adding the comforts of peace and quiet are not likely to push a contented visitor over the edge to obsession. Will adding an erotic element do it?
Venice has a more powerful allure than any enticement to a mere human fling, although, like all seduction ploys, this, too, is a lie. She seems to offer perpetual life by placing you in the center of the busy flow of never-ending human history. In Venice, you are not peering into the past; you are standing in it. You are not only conjuring the private lives of people you would have longed to know; you are living in their houses. And you don’t have to feel insignificant in comparison with your heroes and their peers, because right now, they are offstage, and you are on the very stage they used. This gives you the heady feeling that you, too, will remain vivid far into the future that romance will never leave you, and you only hurt when it is you who has to leave Venice.
Once more, with feeling,
"Buon San Valentino", Venezia,
(before you float away)